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wine maker superhero


As some of you know, I have an ongoing series that has rested dormant for several months drawing Winemaker Superheroes. Abe Schoener opened the genre as Thor. Jason Lett stepped in as Dr Who (Matt Smith’s rendition, to be specific). Angela Osborne appeared as the 8th Major Arcana from Tarot, Justice. Steve Clifton was clearly Superman. In the midst of the series I also drew one Superhero Wine Writer, Jeremy Parzen, of Do Bianchi. Only a few have been drawn in the Winemaker Superhero Series (one because it takes a lot of work but also) because not just anyone can be a superhero. There must be something iconic in the person, a character that exemplifies archetypal traits and symbolism. Recently I had an epiphany for a Superhero Sommelier, and finally have had the time to draw her.

Carla Rzeszewski as the First of the Tarot Major Arcana: 0 – Faith

Carla Rzeszewski as Faithclick on comic to enlarge

Quickly Explaining Symbolism of the Tarot: The Major Arcana

In Tarot, the Major Arcana represent large themes and lessons through a person’s life. There are 21 Major Arcana, each symbolizing a crucial turning point in an individual’s life path. The Minor Arcana (which resemble the cards of a traditional card deck with four suits, numbers 1-10, and royal suites), by contrast, represent decisions that must be made, but of a more everyday nature. Major Arcana are life changing. However, prior to the start of the count of these major lesson cards there is a card marked 0, which represents the pure soul setting out guided only by intuition and good intention to journey forth on the right path whatever it may offer. The card for this journeyer is traditionally called “The Fool,” with the idea of the fool here understood to mean the pure soul, the one that is not muddied by preconceived ideas, or strict knowledge. Instead, the fool travels forth in faith not knowing what the path will bring, instead knowing only that they will face the lessons with open heart and determined foot. The fool is the person guided by synchronicity, assisted by their own commitment to follow what is right for them. With such a figure in mind, the card is occasionally called instead “Faith.”

The deepest lessons from Faith are these. The path is only ever your own–you have been hand chosen to walk it and so it belongs to you. Though you are the only one that can take the particular journey, and you will gain in doing so, it is when you walk it in dedication to something bigger than yourself you receive the greatest gain.

The card also always shows an animal of some sort that brings warning and instinct to the traveler when needed. In most decks the animal appears as a small dog.

Carla Rzeszewski as Faith

In recognizing an interest in wine, Carla Rzeszewski dove into wine study while working as a bartender, finding herself with a sort of special attention for sherry and champagne. Soon after finding her love for the beverage, she was offered the opportunity to become wine director for several new restaurants in New York City. As I understand the story, the reality of stepping directly from bartender into director of a wine program intimidated her mightily. However, one of Rzeszewski’s beliefs is that if you decide you want something, you had better be prepared to embrace it and act for it when it presents itself to you. She accepted the position. Since, Rzeszewski has not only sculpted the direction of multiple wine programs in New York, but also continued her studies in wine by traveling directly to focal point regions, tasting widely, and working with other committed individuals in wine. She has served as a member of tasting panels for the New York Times, been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, and spoken at the Inaugural Women in Wine Leadership Conference held last year in New York. She has also consistently offered encouragement to others to hunt and follow their beloved goals.

Rzeszewski represents the figure of Faith from the Tarot in her hunt-the-path patience-determination combo, her open to the life-that-comes passion, her heart that flows in love and exuberance. She is guided here by a bird of creative vision, the symbol of timelessness. In flying highest, with widest wing, this bird offers insight into the full arc of life’s path from the start of flight, all the way into its transformation at times end. It is this broad vision that allows Faith to face any adventure without having to know in advance what will be. In such flight comes clarity and calm. Through her openness, the path she walks is vibrant and rich, represented by the colors shown here throughout.

In her work with wine, Rzeszewski’s choices reflect this same creativity and exploration, a playfulness grounded in dedication to her work. Her love for her work, and the people around her is infectious. It is her friendship that most readily showcases her enthusiasm.

Thank you to Carla Rzeszewski for your good heart. With much love.


To read more about, and hear more from Carla Rzeszewski:

In a recent episode of In the Drink with Joe Campanale: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/episodes/4248-In-the-Drink-Carla-Rzeszewski

Sporting her own damn trading card on Eater NY with Levi Dalton:

Getting into Why Sherry? in the Village Voice with Lauren Mowry: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2013/04/carla_rzeszewsk_queen_sherry.php

An interview with Maggie Hoffman on which wines age well: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/07/what-wines-age-well-buying-wine-tips-ask-a-sommelier-carla-rzeszewski-spotted-pig.html

A interview on I’ll Drink to That with Levi Dalton: http://soyouwanttobeasommelier.blogspot.com/2012/11/carla-rzeszewski-is-on-ill-drink-to-that.html

Super fun Lady Somm Style with Whitney Adams: http://www.brunelloshavemorefun.com/2012/04/lady-somm-style-carla-rzeszewski/

Super star in the Wall Street Journal with Jay McInernery: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204909104577237530327096346.html

There is so much more great stuff online with Carla. These are just a few of my favorites.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Abe Schoener and I had a conversation about tragedy.

My senior year of high school, my uncle Jay died of pneumonia. It was September. I had a cross country running race and we had to dress up for such days. I was up earlier than usual to put on an outfit I was uncomfortable wearing when my mom knocked on the door. She said my uncle was in the hospital. His friends had rushed him to the emergency room, then knocked on her window in the middle of the night. As a result, she was with him when he died. It took a while, but weeks later she told me the receptionist had brought her directly back to my uncle’s curtained room in the E.R. He couldn’t speak with his lungs too full of fluid but when she entered the room he turned towards her and cried. Within a few minutes he entered cardiac arrest, and in twenty minutes he had died.

In his book, Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche builds on his ideas already explored in his earlier text, The Birth of Tragedy. There Nietzsche considers the painful revelry he sees as peculiar to the phenomenon. In Nietzsche’s view, the pain of tragedy reveals to us our own limits. It is in losing someone we feel attachment to we come to recognize the finite nature of our power and our lives. We cannot save them. In the same moment, we are forced too to see we cannot save ourselves. We will die. For other philosophers, the reality of our mortality brings with it a burdensome pessimism. Schoepenhauer treated the negative as defining human life. Earlier in the history of philosophy, Aristotle took tragedy in art to be a kind of therapeutic for our countenance. In experiencing second hand feelings of grief, fear, and terror by watching the tragic hero (like, Oedipus or Agamemnon, as in the case of Ancient Greek tragedy), we are cleansed of some tumult associated with such feelings, and thus find ourselves more stable, and stronger after. For Nietzsche, such a view is naive, perhaps even damaging. Instead, the all consuming pain of loss, and fear of our own mortality found in tragedy reveals to us a strange duality. It is in facing the stirred up feelings experienced in the death of another that we discover reason cannot provide all answers. Some things are simply unexplainable. The sensuous pain of loss dominates us and we must face an inexplicable edge that defines the limits of human existence. At the point of death we have no knowledge. What is interesting in all of this, is that, for Nietzsche, it is precisely when we allow ourselves to go into these feelings that we come to recognize our own brilliance. Tragedy, for Nietzsche, carries in it a two-fold experience. We are thrust into a horrible pain, and find through it a defiant pleasure. Tragedy forces us to recognize the limits of our own powers, and yet in entering that feeling we come to see our own power of persistence. We will die. Surely. Yet, here we live our human lives, demanding they be more than our own mortality simply by persisting. This two-fold experience is the source of Dionysian revelry, for Nietzsche. It is only in our facing the realities of decay, and decomposition that are the death cycle, that we see then too how life is a perpetual process of defiant transformation.

The family I was born into was four generations strong into my early 20’s. My great grandparents raised us through their simple constancy. We were lucky enough too to have grandparents, my parents, my sisters and I. My senior year in high school, when my uncle died, began a five year period of dismantling what my family had been. He died, unexpectedly, followed by my grandmother, my great grandparents, my other uncle, and finally my grandfather–more than half those deaths sudden. Two generations gone from us, and half of a third also lost. In that same time period, my father’s brother, other more distant extended family, and two of my own friends all also died. Those five years marked what my mother calls a stripping to the bone. Any pretense, or room for drama was lost. In the midst of so much grief there is room for little else. In the same time period, my oldest sister was diagnosed with what was supposed to be a lethal brain tumor, given eighteen months to live. By god’s grace she is still alive, so beautiful. It’s been eighteen years. In the same time period my oldest niece, Melissa, was also born, my great grandparents, then, witness to the wonder of five generations–a family they put into bloom. One of the gifts of simply persisting.

Abe Schoener and I had a conversation about tragedy. It started over a barrel of botrytis infected petite sirah. The year had been suddenly wet, in the end, and the clusters were covered in mildew when harvest time came. It was a situation many faced by throwing out fruit, but the berries revealed there was still juice in their meat. So, Schoener and his team foot stomped them. The vats after were slicked by a film of off-white growth on top–the mildew pushed off the skin. The wine now carries the smoothly tannic balance possible with a petite sirah, alongside concentrated fruit and spice notes associated with a late harvest wine, both without sweetness. It was a wine I’d heard Schoener was working on and I couldn’t wait to taste it. Then, there we were meeting in person for the first time (both of us careful in selecting our outfits for the occasion hoping to impress the other), tasting from barrel a wine that was strange in its brilliance. It’s been two weeks since and from a set of around twenty wines, the petite sirah is the one I crave. It drinks like its been touched by the edge of spoilage and come back to tell its story. Like its structure is more than the damage it could have endured. The acidity knows what its capable of being, so it just goes ahead turning in the barrel. The fruit dances through stages of vibrant and concentrated, dusty and fresh somehow all there together. The wine is not sweet like sometimes associated with late harvest grapes, but it is deepened, darker, and more raisined than it would be otherwise.

Schoener’s wines are seen as strange for the American palate. Even if his wine making techniques have their analogues abroad–with the oxidative elements purposefully done in Jura, or traditional Rioja, as examples–still, Schoener’s wines work against what’s more common for the mainstream–fresh fruit, or fruit jam presentation–of a still young U.S. wine industry. I ask him to talk to me about his wine making choices, so he explains. He wants his wines to be a pleasure to drink, he says, but he also wants them to make you think. He’s unclear how to accomplish this purposefully, yet, sometimes by intention alone the motivation succeeds. He wants his wines to go ahead and get right to the edge of what it is to be wine–a way to prove they are no longer fruit–then, to find their way back from it. What he’s learned from wine making, he says, is that if you start with a healthy vineyard, and then give the wine its own time in the barrel, it will self regulate. It will have moments when you think it is undrinkable, and, from the perspective of a more traditional wine making style, when you think it may be flawed. But if you let it persist, on the other side you’ll find a wine ready to bottle that is still marked by that edge, yet full of pleasure. I ask him about that idea of the edge again. That edge, he tells me, that’s the analogue to tragedy–where the wines have come right up to the border of something, and shown they are more than it. In this way, he wants his wines to cause pleasure, to be fun to drink, and at the same time, he wants them to make you think, to make you think of tragedy.


Thank you to Burt Coffin, Paul Sutton, and Aaron Pinnix.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


This is the fourth Superhero Wine Maker dedication in an on going series appearing here (though there has also been one Superhero Wine Writer dedication in the series). To follow the ongoing series on Wine Maker Superheroes click here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/tag/wine-maker-superhero/

Steve Clifton is Superman

click on comic to enlarge

The legend of Superman presents the American dream of a great ideal–the man so driven by principles of goodness he is strengthened beyond all others to fulfill the demands of integrity in the greater world. Though we might treat Superman as an overly naive mythology, the story’s design reveals its recognition of darker forces through Superman’s demand to carry a dual identity. He must remain hidden from the larger world which he strives to protect.

Still, even in Superman’s Alter Ego, Clark Kent, his full alignment with higher law is evident. Bumbling Kent can’t help but be good. Revealed in the Gemini presentation of Superman/Clark Kent we witness an important lesson. It is only in a thorough integration of our principles with our desires, our need to be close to others, and even our anger, that we have the strength to do what is right. It is only as he lives from his fuller Superman self, complete with oppositional energies such as lust for Lois Lane, vulnerable need for love relationships, and anger or grief for loss of others that our hero is able to embody the superpowers that set him apart. Clark Kent’s goodness is too narrow and naive for him to act with genuine power.

A further lesson generated by Superman’s gifts can be found in his aura of grace shown through his determination to be part of his community, rather than separate from it. Even as his powers would seem to set him apart, Superman utilizes his dual identity not only to protect the fate of those he loves, but also to allow the community to celebrate together in his protective accomplishments. He has no need to hold the credit only for himself.

Steve Clifton

Through his Palmina Wines, Steve Clifton carries an impressive portfolio of Italian varieties grown in the greater Lompoc region of California. The sheer number of wines produced under the Palmina label (and its sister rosé, Botasea di Palmina, made by Steve Clifton’s lovely wife, Chrystal) in itself reveals an ability to juggle a wealth of projects simultaneously. However, beyond the work of Palmina, Clifton also co-produces with Greg Brewer a complete portfolio of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir through the Brewer-Clifton label.

The quantity of wines would be an unimportant point to raise except for the fact that each bottling offers a wonderful balance of each of the three reasons to drink wine–pleasure, interest, and food pairing. Katherine and I were lucky enough to spend an extended morning with Steve Clifton tasting through the Palmina portfolio (review comics to come tomorrow). What impressed us both during the tasting was how clearly designed to drink with a meal the Palmina wines are. That said, these are not food wines in a narrow sense. Instead, these are clean, well-balanced wines that offer intellectual engagement in a relaxing presentation. There is enough to think about here, but the smarts of the wines are well grounded in a body of pleasure. By the end of the tasting, I told Steve that I’d happily want a blind case of Palmina in my house–even if there are several that stood out for me as favorites, any of the wines would be a welcome addition to my kitchen.

Considering the quality of quantity that Clifton manages to produce in wine serves as a strong first step for establishing a wine maker superhero, but it is how he develops community around his wine that moves him into the pinnacle superhero position as Superman. In talking with Clifton about his goals as a wine maker, he emphasizes his interest in sustainability. Considering the popularity of the word in the United States right now, the idea might not sound impressive. What does stand out is Clifton’s own awareness of what he means by sustainability, and the way in which he follows through on the concept.

As Clifton emphasizes, the notion of sustainability only matters when it makes contact with the way people live their daily lives. While we of course need to cultivate the health of our surrounding earthly environment, it is in seeing how integral to and dependent upon that environment we are that we begin to make a difference in each others and our own lives. Sustainability, then, also depends upon cultivating sustainable community and community relationships. As such, Clifton focuses on developing liveable conditions for his vineyard and wine making employees. In doing so, he also perpetuates a sense of longer term involvement for his employees such that their work includes the benefit of knowledge gained from time. Additionally, by establishing an on going work relationship, employees are able to directly witness, and enjoy the benefits of their own good work.

The refrain heard across California wine country during our travels was that there is a labor shortage–it’s hard enough to find people to maintain the vineyards and harvest the grapes that there is an honest concern over losing fruit before it can be turned into wine. Clifton has helped himself avoid much of this difficulty, however, by establishing on going employees that work with his label consistently throughout the year, thus getting to know the vineyards, while also being able to focus on the daily health of their own families simply by having the luxury of living in one place throughout the year. In these ways, Clifton supports not only the quality of his own wine label, but also the healthy living conditions of his employees.

Further extending his care for the greater community, proceeds from a couple of Palmina’s wines are also donated to charity. The Rosato di Palmina, for example, generates donations for helping to find a cure for breast cancer.

As if his incredible quality focused production abilities, dedication to sustainability, and cultivation of community health weren’t enough, Clifton seals his status as Superman through the unassuming character of his Palmina profile. The goals of the label are centrally dedicated to being food wine. In this way, Palmina presents itself not as a show off wine, but as an integral aspect of a meal, holding a persona meant not to upstage its surroundings, but integrate into it.


Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the individual wines from Palmina through wine review comics.

Thank you to Steve Clifton for taking time to meet us. We’re both so grateful.

Thank you to Seth Kunin for helping me schedule time with Steve.

Thank you to Dan Fredman for helping me move from typing “rose’ ” to typing “rosé.” I’m so excited by that I can’t even tell you.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Angela Osborne as Tarot’s Major Arcana VIII Strength

click on comic to enlarge

Understanding Tarot’s Major Arcana

In Tarot the Major Arcana present a series of archetypes representative of stages of spiritual and personal growth or development. While the Minor Arcana (the same cards, basically, that we find in a standard deck of playing cards) indicate subtle processes that we can happen upon in any particular aspect of everyday life, the Major Arcana instead show a significant stage of a person’s overall life. The stages offered through the Major Arcana are told as a kind of story of the Fool’s Journey–the Fool being the fully open person guided by intuition with still a range of life experiences from which to learn. As the Fool (traditionally represented as a young man) moves forward on his life path he moves naturally through the growth processes of the Major Arcana (not necessarily in order) brought through the complexities of human life by his own choices and intuitive guidance both.

From this perspective, then, each Major Arcana can be understood as a sort of Jungian Archetype through which any of us may come to better understand tropes of human life and experience.

Superhero Archetypes

North American comic book superheros operate as a form of mythical archetype of the American psyche offering insight into our aspirations, fears, and stages of ethical development: Superman may stand as our cultures’ desire for principled truth and goodness; Batman as recognition of our darker inclinations and our will to generate right action even in the face of them.

When considering comic book heroes and women archetypes, however, its easiest to just admit we’ve not done enough work to develop really rockin’ women superheroes. They’re often ridiculously big-boobed, cranky, or generally sexually problematic. (I do rather like Storm from X-Men, but notice she never really hooks up. Or, Phoenix Force, also from X-Men, but notice she just flat destroys the men she tries to love. It would seem it’s hard to be a woman superhero AND happily in love. Though it actually seems men superheroes tend to have relationship trouble too. ANYWAY…) The point being, it can be hard to find an interesting range of superhero archetypes for channeling our favorite women wine makers through. With that in mind, I chose to look outside comic books to find the right figure for presenting Angela Osborne in her excellence. I find her, then, in one of the Major Arcana of Tarot.

Angela Osborne as Tarot’s VIII Strength

Having moved through a discovery of his own passions and power to wield them, the Fool leaves his recent struggles journeying into the next stage of his life journey. Along the way he encounters a woman in the distance that would seem to be struggling with a lion. Determined to save her, the Fool rushes forward, bolstered by his own previous triumphes through struggle. He is certain he will wrestle the lion, risk his life and thus utilize his masculine bravery to save the beautiful feminine figure. As he approaches, the Fool discovers the woman merely petting the lion, the beast having calmed from her presence now still strong and wild but at peace with the woman’s ease.

The Fool is confused. How could the lion relax its ferociousness to commune with the woman? And why would the woman wish to be so close to a beast? Compelled by the woman he asks her to explain. Without moving, the woman turns to the Fool and looks directly into his eyes. The Fool sees in her expression a great gentleness coupled with a calm certainty. In the combination he recognizes what would make the lion respond to her–she is in tune with her self in a way that allows her too to be in tune with her surroundings. It is not that she dominated the lion, but that she knew how to read and interact with the lion in a way that set it at ease. The Fool wishes to know what she would want with a beast. The woman reminds him that the lion is a unique energy with which there is much to experience and share.

(This version of the tarot story is largely thanks to aeclectic.net.)

Focused on honing her conscious awareness of what surrounds the wine she makes–both in the vineyards, and in the wine making facilities themselves, Angela Osborne presents a lived presentation of Tarot’s Strength card. She cultivates her already deep respect for the wine through a commitment to bio-dynamic vineyard and wine making practices. Additionally, she relies on her own intuition of what the wine needs as it is being birthed in the barrel, along with a sense of surrender to what nature will offer beyond her own control. Together these elements show the grounded, centered, clarity of the feminine figure of Tarot’s 8th Major Arcana, the Strength card.

We’ll spend the next two days considering Angela Osborne’s beautiful wines A Tribute to Grace, first through A Life in Wine story of how she came to making grenache, now alongside her husband Jason, then through a review of a complete vertical of the full Grace history.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Alternate Realities

In some universe only a few clicks alternate to our own, I am married to Abe Schoener. Our wedding was three days ago and the celebration was one of the most ruckus, fun, easy going, and hilarious love fests I’ve ever attended. Though we kept it low-key, photos of the ceremony nevertheless made it to the cover of Wine People Magazine, the wine celebrity gossip rag featured by every good grocery store check-out across the Alternate-United States.

Friends hologram-skyped in from all over the world, while a select few others were fully-physically present, giving a series of toasts teasing the Schoener-Wakawaka union for its Thor themed origins. Katherine stood with me as Abe and I held hands beside the brackish waters of Southern Napa, and he and I are now on our way to Spain to honeymoon with the grapes. Hawk Wakawaka Jr. (age 12) and Johanna Jensen have become fast friends and have big plans to play through Napa for the summer. It’s all very easy going and beautiful.

This Reality

In planning the drive up California Wine Country, and inviting Katherine to come with me, I advised that she keep in mind I’d be working, then asked her what she’d like to be sure and do. She answered thus, “I want to drink chardonnay, and hang out with Abe Schoener.” So we did.

In meeting with Abe, we were lucky enough too to connect with Abe’s right hand, Johanna Jensen, taste with Wine Maker Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope wines, and share dinner with Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars as well. Write-up to follow. In the meantime, here are photos.

Tasting with Matthew Rorick

Dinner with Tegan, Johanna, and Abe


Thank you most especially to Abe Schoener, and Johanna Jensen.

Thank you to Matthew Rorick.

Thank you to Tegan Passalacqua.

Some of these pictures taken by Katherine (and in the entire series of California pics, including any posts I might not have mentioned it)–thank you.

Dear Pam, thank you for hosting me last night. It’s been so good to be with you.


Katherine is now back in Flagstaff already. Today I shoot up the West Coast to Seattle (I’ll be driving into the night) where I will leave my car and then fly out to Bristol Bay, Alaska. My cell phone won’t work there. I’ll have some internet access but it’s unclear how much. My family will be commercial fishing for salmon.

It’s my first trip back in seven years. My family from all the way back still lives there on the windy Western Coast of Alaska in Spirit. They’ll be talking to me as I travel the tundra. I’ll post pics and explanations of the salmon industry, my family’s history, and the area, but also write-ups from the last two weeks of wine travel. Wish me luck. Alaska is a different world. When I speak to my parents these days the pace of conversation is intensely slow, their voices have slipped down into their belly, and they talk with a lilt of village accent. Soon I’m sure I’ll be doing the same. Cheers!


(As for you, alternate universe where I’m on my way to Spain sitting next to the surprise love of my alternate-life, you’re one of my favorite places to visit. Take good care of the fantasies.)

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

The Iconic Wines Project

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Let me be plain. I suspect Birk O’Halloran and Karl Antle like women, and super heroes, and women in superhero outfits. The truth is, I can’t blame them. I like those sorts of things myself–appreciate women celebrating their own awesomeness, spend as much time as possible dressing up in super hero-like outfits, and dream of someone someday deciding I’m worthy of being drawn up as a superhero comic and then actually following through on the idea.

I begin this way because Birk’s and Karl’s rather young project, Iconic Wines, recently sent me wine samples, and their work consistently presents itself with labels focused on their own renditions of female superheroes–a marketing concept after my own heart, clearly.

The two took the leap into wine making, with the help of wine maker Dan Petroski of Massican Wine along side, by traveling to California and sourcing grapes from established vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino. They began with the release of the now sold out 2010 Heroine Chardonnay last October, and move forward with their own Rose’ version of the rather uncommon Trousseau Gris, which they’ve named Secret Identity.

2010 Heroine Chardonnay, and 2011 Secret Identity Trousseau Gris Rose’

click on comic to enlarge

* 2010 Heroine Chardonnay

The first ever release by Iconic Wine, the 2010 Heroine Chardonnay, utilizes 100% Clone 4 Chardonnay arising from the 4-acre only Michael Mara Vineyard of Sonoma, run by Steve Matthiasson. The site takes up the soil of an old river bed with young vines that even in their early stages have already been regarded by well-known wine makers as showing good potential and quality. Fruit from the vineyard is sourced not only by Iconic’s good men but also by the likes of Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project, and Arnot Roberts for his own single vineyard wine.

For Iconic’s bottling, Birk and Karl choose to do a split harvest paired too with split production. The fruit is selected at two different stages of ripeness two weeks apart. A portion of each harvest is allowed to go through malo-lactic fermentation, while the remainder is not. Then the four pressings are blended to achieve the quality of Chardonnay varietal they are looking for.

The 2010 Heroine shows a classic rich flavor and texture combination offering flavors of fresh and candied citrus–fruit, zest, and blossom–with touches of ripe pear, light spice, and dried sage. The alcohol offers just enough heat and pepper to keep the wine warm in your mouth.

I will admit that I prefer a slightly higher acidity level on a round-palate Chardonnay than the 2010 Heroine has to offer. That said, the flavors and texture here were rich, and well executed. The wine would be beautiful alongside roast chicken breast, but it really got me craving both strawberries and mac & cheese, not to mention a good sit down evening at the end of a long day in superhero makeup. You have no idea how tiring a full day in superhero make up can be.

* 2011 Secret Identity Trousseau Gris Rose’

Trousseau Gris originates from France and was at one time widely planted in California under the name “Gray Riesling.” Today a mere 10 acres of the grape still stand along the North American coast in the Fanucchi Vineyards of the Russian River Valley.

As he describes it, Birk of Iconic is obsessed with Pinot Gris produced with skin contact. Known in Italy as Pinot Grigio Ramato, the extended skin contact on the lightly colored grape imparts a richer texture, along with more developed flavors from the fruit including spice notes, floral elements, and ripe orchard fruit. With Ramato in mind, the Iconic men decided to apply the same process to another Gris–the Fanucchi’s Trousseau. The fruit here comes from 30 year old vines, which is impressive. To produce this Ramato style wine, the juice was allowed to cold soak on skins in steel for 10 days without punch down or pump over. The wine was then pulled off skins and fermented in tank for 10 days before being aged in bottle for 6 months.

Let me say I very much enjoyed Iconic Wine’s current release, and their second wine, the 2011 Secret Identity. A word of warning–at first taste this wine appears pert, spicy, and a little too tart. But, like any good woman that demands your attention up front, she lures you in further as she relaxes and opens, becoming more floral, keeping that spice but integrating it into her warm humor, and approachable, while still sharp intellect… dear god, I’m honestly sitting here wishing I could be described like their Secret Identity wine…. Please don’t tell anyone.

As I said, this Trousseau Gris Rose’ starts tart in the mouth but opens to wonderfully ripe, lightly musky white nectarine, lychee and melon (there is a little sweat on this fruit. It’s sexy.), showcased alongside a honeysuckle nose and palate, light notes of dried oregano, and mace spice, and just a touch of residual sugar in the mouth. The scents are pleasant and balanced, and the structure shows well too, keeping your mouth watering through a medium-long finish.

I loved drinking this as a rose’ on its own, but it would also do very well with grilled chicken and sticky rice.

The Iconic men are also working on very low production Trousseau Gris wine fermented in barrel, instead of tank.

If you’re interested in their Secret Identity it is going on release to their mailing list this week. Find out more via their website: http://www.iconicwine.com/


Thank you to Iconic Wine and Birk O’Halloran for sending me these samples.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

This morning welcomed a realization on my fascination with superheroes, and presenting admirable figures in the wine world as their own heroic incarnations. All this triggered by my sister’s blog write-up for my dad’s birthday.

image found: http://endangeredspaces.blogspot.com

I was lucky enough to grow up in a rather remarkable family. My mother originates on the Western coast of Alaska where the Aleutian Islands join the mainland via the Alaska Peninsula. Her family reaches back in that area from as far back as we can imagine ancestors. They are Aleut.

my mother’s family in Bristol Bay, Alaska. my grandmother is the young girl front left. my great grandmother is in the middle.

The luck of this family rests largely in their fierce persistence. There is a strength we gained from my mother’s roots that is one of the foundations of my family’s health and successes. On this side of the family, the horrible joke is that we’ve all almost died at least once. The doctor’s just forgot to tell us we were supposed to.

The remainder of this luck arises from the incredible riches of Bristol Bay, where they originate. I was lucky enough to grow up commercial fishing for salmon alongside four, ultimately five, generations of family. My great grandfather retired from the industry at the age of 84 just so that I could begin fishing in his stead at the age of 9. He proudly smiled as he handed the torch to me, and my sisters, telling me I already was his fishing partner since my mother fished with me the summer she was pregnant. The salmon season runs from early June to early August. I was born August 25.

image found: http://www.alaskool.org

My father grew a little further up the coast at the mainland side of Norton Sound, where the Seward Peninsula (the nose of Alaska) nestles onto the body of the state. His family originates from this general coastal area having migrated up and down this mainland section below the Peninsula from their beginnings. They are Inupiat.

my grandmother in Northern Alaska

In college my parents met during my mother’s first year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As the story goes he’d seen her on campus and though he never bothered with school dances, he knew she did. So, at a school dance that Fall he went to the college activity center and stayed downstairs playing pool until what he thought was the last dance. Then he ran upstairs and asked her for the final song. It turned out there was one more slow dance left after their spin about the floor and for the end of the event another man stepped in. (My mom was a beautiful sought after but hard to get woman.) Miffed by the bad timing, my dad watched as the other man first danced with my mom then began to walk her home. A block or so into the stroll my father came up from behind and stepped in between. The other man gave up and my parents have been together ever since.

Within the year my parents were married, and within a year following they’d begun their family together with my oldest sister Paula being born. They also began their family business of commercial salmon fishing, with my father first fishing alongside my great grandfather, and then purchasing his own salmon drift fishing boat. He’s now been salmon fishing for just shy of 50 years.

my parents

My childhood is filled with stories of my dad’s heroics. In college to earn extra money my father participated in a research study observing how well men did exercising in cold climates. The study was carefully planned with a small number of men each from different racial backgrounds. As my dad tells it, they were required to ride a stationary bicycle in a cold (approaching freezing) room wearing only their underwear with monitors and probes about their bodies. The study was supposed to go on for as long as the men could sustain all day riding in the cold temperatures, with the expectation it would last about a week. But, the men were also paid for as long as they lasted. Determined to bring home as much as he could for his young family, and also fiercely certain he could do well by his Inupiat people my dad set out to continue bicycling as long as he could. He lasted two weeks longer than any of the other participants. In the end the researcher simply shut the study down and was unable to publish the results. As the story goes, my father’s efforts had skewed the data so severely the results were unusable.

People also regularly responded to my dad as a kind of warm but enigmatic presence. As I’ve told him before, one of my strongest memories of my father reaches back to elementary school. His mother had helped start the Alaska Native Heritage preservation movement in the state. As a result she’d been recognized publicly by President Nixon, and the Governor of Alaska, received various honorariums, and published multiple books. After her death numerous buildings around the state were also named for her. Outside of Fairbanks an elementary school carries her name and my father was asked to speak at the dedication ceremony directly after a well-known state politician that had been close to my grandmother. My parents and I flew to Fairbanks for the occasion.

Driving up to the event that evening I’d asked my dad what he would talk about. He responded that he didn’t know yet, but he felt comfortable deciding when he got on stage. At the time his answer confounded me.

my family about 5 years ago. there is another grand baby now.

The elementary had arranged for school children to usher in guests for the ceremony. When we were greeted at the front door by one of the elementary students my mother whispered to our guide that the man the girl was facing was Emily’s son (Emily being my grandmother and the namesake of the school). We had seen how the girl had been struggling with little boys only moments before as they kept pushing her away, and grabbing the biggest group of people to walk into the school for the dedication ceremony. But, for her patience the little girl had instead won the honor of bringing in not only one of the presenters for the dedication but also the son of the woman the school was named for.

That evening as I sat in the audience I listened first to the politician’s speech. He spoke of how admirable my grandmother’s work had been, and of how inspiring she was as a person. The truth was his own stage presence was flat, even if what he had to say was important. The audience regularly shifted in their seats. When the politician was done my father was introduced. It was the first time I’d seen him address a crowd. He began telling stories of my grandmother first from his childhood–about their life in remote Alaska, of her dedication to survival with her family (in the midst of winter she had to walk herself and her two sons tens of miles across the coastline to get from a cabin in Shaktoolik they’d become stuck in to her family in Unalakleet where they could find help)–and then stories of traveling with her as she worked to speak to the public about Native life, or to connect with elders whose lessons she would help record. The audience was transfixed, and moved. At the end of his talk the sound of clapping filled the gymnasium.

A simpler part of the story is that it is also my father that introduced our family to the world of red wine. Growing up as we did wine, or alcohol of any sort, was not part of the routine. We were even cautious about chocolates filled with liquor when we had them. After I graduated from high school, however, my father announced during one of my visits home that he was drinking red wine–a glass of Pinot Noir a day for his health. With that we discovered the wines of Carneros, and the Willamette Valley, and the wine world has continuously expanded ever since.

On this your birthday, dear Dad, I give thanks for the incredible gifts you and mom have given us. You are my original superhero. Every blessing in my life began with the two of you, and with our family reaching back as far as we can imagine ancestors.

All my love, Dad. Happy Birthday.


My sister, Melanie, inspired my post on our dad by wishing him a Happy Birthday first at her blog. She considers there the legacy he has established for his family, and posts too a wonderful picture of he and his oldest grandchild, our sister Paula’s daughter, Melissa, who gets ready to graduate from high school in less than a week. Fishing photos are always cool to see. She also considers the perfect wine to celebrate our father, a real stand out from the Willamette Valley.

Check out her blog post here: http://fishwineski.com/2012/05/01/happy-birthday/


Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while know that I like drawing wine maker superheroes. Recently I realized there are wine writer superheroes too.


A Knight of Malta, his Lady of Honor, and their little one

click on comic to enlarge

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The longest established chivalric order in the world, the Knights of Malta, is generally considered a sovereign body within International law, that is, the organization holds its own independent legal authority under agreement with the United Nations. The group reaches back to the middle ages having been established originally as the order of Saint John of Jerusalem, but became a fully independent military entity after the close of the crusades. Founded to provide medical aid to those in need, the group’s membership is dominated by medical providers of varying degrees and holds established charity projects on five continents, and more than 120 countries. In short, the Knights stands as a modern day superhero organization–people determined to do good wherever possible.

In Italy, the Knights of Malta own several wineries, including the Rocca Bernarda, which we were able to visit, as a means of funding their other projects. We were able to taste in the castle of the Rocca Bernarda with its sweeping views from atop the hill, and its terraced old vine vineyards. After tasting through their portfolio, our trusty guide, Jeremy Parzen excitedly asked if now that we’d had their wine, he could wear one of the helmets of the Knights of Malta.

Jeremy, Tracie, and Georgia Parzen

As is well shown already on this blog, I was lucky enough to travel in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, touring the appellation Colli Orientali del Friuli, recently with Jeremy Parzen as the trusted guide to our small group of plucky wine writers and bloggers. Before beginning the journey, Jeremy and I spoke over the phone. During the conversation, he and his wife, Tracie, drove south in Texas with their baby girl, Georgia, to visit Tracie’s parents for a weekend. It was clear in this first interaction not only that Jeremy was a man of understanding and generous heart, but also that he acts in glowing devotion to his two loves–his partner and daughter. During the phone call he took the time to explain to me who I’d be traveling with, how the trip would be handled, his experience that would serve as support in the experience. He also took pains to inquire as to my own needs and interests on the trip, and to investigate the degree of privacy I’d prefer both in being introduced and in posting on our adventures. (All intermingled with appropriately timed accolades for his wife and daughter.)

Upon arrival in Friuli, the same generosity of spirit showed itself in person. Jeremy did a wonderful job of balancing his own needs while tending to the well-being of our group. His ability to coordinate our travels, translate those we visited for us from their Italian to our English, and to both observe on his own and check-in on how well we were doing was a blessing. Further, he was willing to compliment any of us on what he appreciated along the way.

Tracie and Jeremy Parzen have both written on Italian wine for years via their individual blogs, offering their personal views and insights into the world, the politics, and the history of Italian wine to both other devotees and newer initiates. Their investment in such a project even brought them together.

One of the unexpected benefits of being able to travel with the #cof2012 group was Jeremy’s own appreciation for his family. As I explained to him one afternoon, I am someone that is grateful to witness and celebrate the joys of others, as they are willing to openly share. I’ve been lucky enough to raise my daughter on my own for over a decade now–she’s a real sweetheart and a total kick to help grow up. It’s a gift I wouldn’t miss, and also its own peculiar project, since from her toddler years it has been just the two of us. In being with Jeremy as he talked lovingly about Tracie and Georgia, I felt able to freely celebrate the pleasure he feels over having his family. It’s a real gift to see a man so in love with his wife and child. To put it another way, his joy deepened mine.

In thanks for inviting me to participate in #cof2012, and for his great work there, his dedication to celebrating the world of Italian wine, and his wide open loving heart for his family, I wanted to help Jeremy don that helmet, his family alongside. He is a superhero–one of the best kinds even–a real life grown man, well-grounded, and devoted. Thanks for everything, Jeremy!

Cheers to the wine writers’ Knight of Malta, and his Lady of Honor, plus their dear little one, Georgia!

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Superhero Winemakers Part 2: Jason Lett is Doctor Who

“It’s a straw fedora. I wear a fedora now. Fedoras are cool.”  

click on comic to enlarge


Considering Sci-Fi

The thing about good sci-fi is there are no mere coincidences. Life changing moments occur because it was crucial to the fabric of space-time that your life be changed, and some space-time fabric mastermind is working to ensure you have the encounter necessary to generate your all-compelling epiphany that is going to instigate you changing that life of yours. In this way, sci-fi fascinates by treating what we often take as mundane as instead purposefully intended. Else wise, we walk a different path through history.

And So, Doctor Who

Enter Doctor Who. BBC’s Time Lord stands as the ultimate geek-out intellectual superhero saving the universe again and again as the last man of mystery able to do so. He regularly puts his life on the line for the sake of the greater good, while repeatedly figuring out how to save his bacon in the midst of that universe saving conundrum. His superhero antics do not include a cape, but instead pose him as an otherwise everyman complete with massive encyclopedic knowledge, and a supersonic fix-all screwdriver (See Lett’s breast pocket above).

In Doctor Who’s world there are moments in history that are fixed. That is, they cannot occur otherwise lest the universe itself collapse in on itself. These fixed points in space-time are few, but in their essence define fundamental aspects of what it is to be of this universe, whether we as humans recognize those moments’ importance or not.

Why Eyrie

Behold Eyrie Vineyards. Thanks to its place in beginning a worldwide regarded wine region, and thus also helping to transform not only how we understand U.S. wine making potential, but also what cultural-economic possibilities underlie an entire region, Doctor Who understands Eyrie Vineyards, and thus also the Lett family, as one of these fixed (that is, crucially required) moments in human history. (Wow, that was a long sentence.)

The Eyrie Episodes: The Willamette Intervention: Part One: A Good Man Goes To Wine

In part one of The Eyrie Episodes we are stuck at a crucial moment in the fabric of space-time. Our beloved Doctor Who must ensure that young David Lett makes his way to first learn about the powers of wine making, second convince his parents it is the right choice, and third discover the beauty and grape growing rightness of the Willamette Valley.

As our episode begins, Jason Lett, as Doctor Who, exits the Tardis in pre-wine era Dundee Hills, Oregon. The hills are rolling green. The climate is cool, lightly moist from morning fog, and the sun is rising through the mist casting rays of golden light across the tall hawk dotted trees. He takes a deep breath and smiles. In moments a man is going to come walking over the crest of the nearby green with a small soil scoop in hand. Doctor Who will talk with him, encourage him to look up into the trees and see the hawks, and in doing so the man will be struck by the landscape and decide to dig into the earth right there.

In this moment we glimpse a crucial element of Doctor Who–he carries more connection to the person being importantly directed than that person realizes. The Doctor’s encounter (with his own father in this multi-layered sci-fi moment) is known as valuable in advance by the Doctor, while only recognized later by the person being helped.

Flash Forward (though backwards from our own human perspective in time):

A couple is waiting for their son to return home from a road trip to California. He’s told them he has a new idea to discuss. Little do they know, their boy wants to take up wine making, having met wine maker Lee Stewart, himself doing interesting things in wine.

Enter Doctor Who. Casually starting conversation with the couple discussions of the potential of wine making in the New World is mentioned. UC Davis has a good program. etc. A seed is planted. The Lett parents, without realizing it, consider wine in a new way. Though not thrilled, when young David tells them of his plans they are now more open to the suggestion.

The Eyrie Episodes: The Willamette Intervention Part Two: Time For Dundee

The phantom enemy that must be fought in part two of The Eyrie Episodes includes both dreaded vine diseases that can ruin a vineyard, and the dregs of economic crisis. With his cunning wit and smart humor, Jason Lett as Doctor Who recognizes the power of a diverse and dynamic vineyard to keep pests at bay, and costs down. The fight is won (though not till episode end after much tension, humor, and British style brilliance)!

As the episode begins, we return to the place on the hill beneath the hawk nests. Jason Lett as Doctor Who is standing in the morning sun appreciating the view. This time the hills are planted with established vines that were not present before. The second generation of Eyrie winemakers tend the fruit, bringing into tradition a young next generation as well. Here Black Cap wines are also grown, Jason Lett’s own label. Thus, takes hold not only an Eyrie dynasty, but also a leader in establishing a celebration of wine making in the United States arising from the wealth of the land, climate, and fruit itself.


Why Jason Lett as Doctor Who? The truth is originally my thought was that Jason Lett is who Spiderman becomes when he finally grows comfortable with his suit. Spiderman carries a strong commitment to family and tradition, while switching up how he will live his own life at the same time. He’s everyman likeable, with handsome smart guy charm, while also totally devoted to the woman (and by Jason Lett years children too) he loves. He appreciates his privacy, and will follow through on what he knows is right. Spiderman faces his challenges with steadiness and conviction.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but follow an intuition that’s harder to describe–Jason Lett somehow feels like Matt Smith as Doctor Who to me. Similarly, Matt Smith’s Doctor Who is everyman likeable, with handsome smart (and tall) guy charm, also devoted to the health of his companion, Amy, and the love of his River Song. He wants the committed family life, but as a Time Lord struggles to have it. He ensures that moments in space-time be done right, and is committed to the tradition of his people while finding ways to follow through in his own good sense. Further, both Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, and Jason Lett are known for their dry humor.

(Incidentally, Doctor Who rarely wears a hat but during the Matt Smith years has a penchant for trying them out. Jason Lett, from what I can tell through pictures online, often wears a hat.)

The thing that clinched the Doctor Who portrait was Jason Lett tweeting in response to my Spiderman suggestion, saying to me instead that his wife took him to be Doctor Who (while he took himself to be Doctor Terrible–oh the joking!), and his kids were looking forward to whatever comic I came up with. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough that this one bit of my intuition agreed with Jason’s good wife, but was happy to discover it so. As such, this comic is dedicated to to all the Letts. I hope you enjoy!


Next week we’ll look at some other good wines of the Willamette Valley.

To read more on Eyrie Vineyards see my previous post on their wines and story:


Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


Abe Schoener, Scholium Project winemaker, as Thor

click on comic to enlarge

Considering the Meaning of the Germanic-Norse God Thor

From the 8th to 12th centuries a campaign to Christianize Scandinavia ensued with missionaries first venturing into Denmark and over time slowly establishing a network of churches through Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and later Finland. During this time period, many people in the regions became nominally Christian but simultaneously showed resistance in other ways. One way in which this is seen is that the god Thor stood as a popular symbol of working against the demands of the missionaries to instead maintain ones own commitments, even while the larger system of Christianity stayed in place. People were seen wearing symbols of Thor to express such interest. In this way, the symbolic history of the god Thor includes working against the larger social system in place without necessarily undoing it.

Thor now is often recognized as a kind of storm god, because of his pictorial associations with lightning, and other cloud formations. However, scholars have found that Thor’s deeper associations actually included family, community and fruitful health of the fields. The god does bring lightning with him as he travels when needed. He is also connected with the growth of oak trees, fertility, and healing. Further, it has been found that Thor has carried a presence across centuries of tradition, reaching from Ancient times all the way into contemporary interest. Over time he has been seen with many nicknames, even while the symbols surrounding him are consistent. (I promise talk of Thor will be relevant in a moment.)

Tasting Orange Wines: Italians Alongside California’s Scholium Project

Several weeks ago several of us tasted five orange wines–three Italian and two from Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project–alongside each other. (For more on the Italian orange wines, and a picture of the wines that shows their rich color and opacity side-by-side check out Thursday’s post. Incidentally, the name Thursday actually originates in honor of the god Thor. Honest.) In tasting the five wines together a family of style showed itself between the Italian wines on the one hand, and the Scholium wines on the other. There was a kind of textural quality common to each set that differed from that of the other. Orange wines vary so much from the kinds of wine most people are used to it can be challenging to describe the experience of tasting them. In seeing how the Italian wines diverged from the Californian it seemed metaphor best captured familial congruence. While the Italian wines drank as if they embodied themselves in the glass, the Scholium wines had a focused, sharp precision as if they were shooting light from the glass before you’d even finished pouring them.

Wine Maker Abe Schoener

Abe Schoener of Scholium Project has become a kind of mythical figure with a strong cult following. His wines deviate so consistently from the mainstream perception of California wine style they take on their own sort of cult of personality, associated with the perceived personality of their maker, but garnering a following of their own. On the wine geek-hipster side of things, much of the passion people hold for Schoener’s wines arises out of their departure from the nominal style of California. He does his own thing within the surrounding region without falling to expected styles of the area, and without changing the way the overall system works either. California is comfortable with what it does in wine.

Schoener also garners a following, however, from his own personal story, and the commitments he brings to his work. Originally a philosophy professor, in the late 1990s Schoener began to grow tired of academia and turned to deepening his knowledge of wine. While touring and learning in Napa Valley he eventually connected with wine maker John Kongsgaard and assisted with him for a year. As the story goes, at the end of the year, Kongsgaard sent Schoener off to begin making wine on his own believing he had gained the knowledge to step into his own production process. Taking a risk, Schoener gave up academic life all together and began funding his wine interests with credit cards and a couple of small financial supporters.

Schoener avoids the claim that he purposefully makes wines that taste different from his area’s surrounding wine makers. But he readily admits that he experiments with various production techniques and describes his wines as a project in which he’ll try something new and hopefully learn to emulate those he admires. Schoener also states that his goals are to let the wine manage itself, so to speak, while also producing a style that reflects the place, the harvest year, and the grapes themselves. However, Schoener’s wines often show such difference from how the involved varieties are usually expected to taste that he avoids naming the grapes on the label and instead offers the name of the vineyard from which the fruit was harvested, and a title he believes captures that particular wine’s personality (most often historical literature references).

Creating Scholium Project Review Comics

My wine comics generally include some visual reference to an element from the wine label being reviewed. However, the label of Scholium Project wines consistently carry an elegant presentation of the first proposition of Newton’s Principia. I’ve drawn a Scholium wine previously and as such wanted a different challenge of presentation for a comic of these wonderful wines. In reflecting on the original experience I had with Scholium orange wines alongside the Italians the reference to light shooting from the glass stood out. Between the similarity that description has with lightning, and the god Thor’s association with the health of fields, as well as oak, fertility and healing I realized two things. Thor is connected to a range of elements deeply entwined with the wine makers life, and, like Thor, Schoener would seem to have the ability to wield the power of lightning. To put it another way, Abe Schoener–a newly found nickname for the god Thor.

Scholium Project The Prince in His Caves 2010

click on comic to enlarge

100% Sauvignon Blanc

The Prince in His Caves is an orange wine produced entirely from Sauvignon Blanc. It has been an ongoing project of Schoener’s released now for a handful of years. Illustrative of Schoener’s commitment to developing his abilities, the Caves project has been produced with a similar basis of technique–foot stomping of grapes with extended skin contact, thus making it an orange wine–each vintage but with tweaking of the details of production to allow for recognition of that year’s grape qualities. As such, the Cave project is very vintage driven.

The 2010 rendition of The Prince in His Caves is a vibrant, enlivening, and at the same time elegant wine showing a surprising mix of characteristics, as must be expected from any orange wine. The alcohol here is fairly high at 14.02% and thus the wine is warming, but the effect turns out pleasing alongside the medium high acidity and smooth medium tannin. This is not a wine that burns. The flavors here show similarities to ginger-peach tea in a manner desirable from the wine glass. Those notes are expanded by a bouquet and flavor of honeysuckle, touches of white pepper, and a surprising, lovely bite of pickled lemon. For such a range of characteristics, the Prince still shows as well balanced. The finish here is impressively long leaving light in the mouth for at least two runs around the block.

Scholium Project San Floriano Normale 2006

click on comic to enlarge

100% Pinot Grigio

Schoener’s 2006 San Floriano Normale exemplifies his willingness to admit when an experiement didn’t really work out, as well as his interest in seeing what he can do to work with it. As he describes it, the acidity on the original version of this wine was so high it was verging on undrinkable. He reblended barrels and aged the wine in a mix of conditions (in the cellar, outside on the patio, back in the cellar, back outside, etc) for five years before bottling, thus turning a skin fermented pinot grigio into an incredibly textured chocolatey, rich fruit wine with tang, both richness and precision, and sherry or madeira like notes. It shows both the oxidative elements of sherry, and the rich flavors associated with maderization.

incredibly, the alcohol on this wine is high at 16.98%. It definitely carries the heat of such alcohol and yet the body of the wine makes it work. My fear in tasting the San Floriano Normale was that with the high alcohol-medium high acidity combination this wine would burn the mouth as it got warmer. Initially I was certain that it needed to be served partially chilled. In actuality the wine handled drinking warm quite well and remained pleasant, without burning as high alcohol and acid together will tend to do.

Both of the Scholium Project orange wines were liked by the group in our tasting, and a couple of the tasters went on to order some of the Prince in His Caves to have with dinner. They’re wines that are fascinating on their own, and also work alongside food.


Thanks again to Kim for requesting the orange wine focus. It’s been fun to delve so deeply into the phenomenon, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it, Kim. There are numerous other orange wines in the world. I have a few more in cellar that will appear here in the future.

If you’re interested in knowing about other orange wines, check out Dr. Vino’s nice long list that includes many of them.


Thank you to Dan for encouraging me to go ahead with the Thor cartoon. I was nervous about doing it but am happy with how it turned out, and appreciate the push to take a risk. I hope Abe Schoener finds it funny as well.


To read the rest of this series, follow these links:

Understanding Orange Wines 1: A Quick and Dirty Look at How They’re Made and What Their Tannins do to Our Saliva: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/02/18/understanding-orange-wines-a-quick-and-dirty-look-at-how-theyre-made-and-what-their-tannins-do-to-our-saliva/

Understanding Orange Wines 2: Georgian Amber Wines: Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli, Vinoterra Kisi: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/02/20/understanding-orange-wines-2-georgian-amber-wines-pheasants-tears-rkatsiteli-vinoterra-kisi/

Understanding Orange Wines 3: Italian Orange Wines: Gravner Breg, Vodopivec Classica, Bea Arboreus, Coenobium Rusticum: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/02/23/understanding-orange-wines-3-italian-orange-wines-gravner-breg-vodopivec-classica-bea-arboreus-coenobium-rusticum/


Have a wine focus you’d like to see explored here through comics and write up? Please feel free to email me at lilyelainehawkwakawaka (at) gmail (dot) com . I enjoy the challenge, and hearing from you too!

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com